Only a few years back if someone had said the words First Person Shooter and mobile phone in the same sentence, I would have called into question their sanity. If they had told me it was a good game, I would have gone so far as looking into having them institutionalised. Even if this had been said a year or two back, with the iPhone and other smart phones on the market, I would have questioned this. Trying not to give away the outcome of this review too early on, I really do have to say I am impressed by this game. Modern Combat 2 is the game and no, that was not a typo, the game is really named something amazingly close to one of the biggest console shooters out there. It is not just the title that is similar, there are so many things in this game that will sound familiar to Call Of Duty Fans. But from now on I will try not to mention those games again and review the game based on it’s own merits. However, it makes me wonder why there is no official Modern Warfare game on the iPhone as Modern Combat proves that it can be done, and done well. So with that said, lets take a little look at the game.
The story has the player taking control of not one, but numerous soldiers throughout the game in an interconnecting story which has you trying to track down the terrorist Abu Bahaa. The method of using more than one character ensures that the game can be set in numerous different locations such as oil rigs, snowy mountainsides and, of course, nondescript Middle Eastern scenery and towns, as your group of hardened killing machines search for leads and evidence as to the location of your target. There are some little twists and turns to the story along the way, but that is pretty much basic premise of the game.
The main worry I had going into a first person shooter on the iPhone was the control system. But after five minutes or so of playing, you quickly get the hang of things and realise that everything really works amazingly well. Moving your soldier around is just as easy as doing so on a console. In the bottom left of your screen there is a semi transparent representation of an analogue stick which you rest your thumb on and slide it in the direction you wish to move. Just like it’s joypad equivalent, the further you move it the faster you will travel. Aiming your weapons and looking around is also just as simple by placing your other thumb anywhere else on the screen and sliding your finger in the direction you wish to aim or anywhere you want to look. There is a small problem with this in that on occasion you do not have enough screen to turn as far as you like and the first thing you should do before playing is go into the control options and turn the sensitivity way up to full. Although it does not fix the problem completely, it definitely helps no end.
Firing is also as simple as tapping the fire button in the bottom right corner of the screen, but before doing so players must aim at the bad guys. Manually targeting the bad guys on the phone can be tricky, especially if they are a fair distance away. But the game combats this with the inclusion of an auto lock on feature which can be enabled or disabled for players who enjoy the greater challenge of manually aiming. The auto lock on targets any bad guy that the player aims in the general direction of. Once locked on, you can of course fine tune the aim to try for a head shot. What helps with this is the inclusion of another button below the fire control which allows for much more accurate aiming as you look through the sights of your gun, requiring you to fire less bullets at your target. Firing itself is a simple case of pressing or tapping fire. Tapping I found works a lot better as it combats the recoil of the guns. Not all the guns use the auto lock on feature however, most notably the sniper rifles which are aimed manually as are heavy weapons such as the RPG and mounted weapons.
Other actions can also be carried out by tapping or swiping the appropriate buttons on the screen, such as crouch, reload and change weapon, of which you can carry two at any time and throw grenade. A nice feature included in the control options screen is that the game allows you to set up where you would like each control to be on your screen by dragging them around. This way you can set them up where you like depending on personal preference. For instance, I moved the fire control and weapon select/reload controls closer to each other to improve my reloading times. It is a nice little feature that makes playing the game more comfortable, knowing you can put controls where you like them. With this type of game on the iPhone, I was not really expecting much more than moving and shooting. But the developers have actually tried to add some variety to the game with features that you would expect to find in any console based shooter. There are big action scenes such as taking out enemy helicopters, riding atop a hummer while manning the .50 cal machine gun or using a turret mounted machine gun from the bottom level of an oil rig to take out attacking enemy boats. There is a breaching feature that has the player kicking down doors within the game, then entering slow motion for a few seconds, allowing the player to take out the bad guys while avoiding the death of any hostages within the room. There are even some quick time events thrown in, where you need to tap the screen in a certain place at a certain time to carry our actions such as dodging flying debris, incoming knife attacks or saving a team mates life. This variety within the game keeps it both fun and interesting.
There is also a surprisingly deep multiplayer mode, again with many of the features you would expect from a console shooter. Be it death match, team death match or capture the flag, the action with up to ten players in a game is fast paced and smooth. Of course playing online is a little tougher than playing against AI, but it is also a lot more rewarding. Talking of rewards, there are plenty to unlock while playing multiplayer. As you gain XP from kills and wins you level up, rising in rank and unlocking weapons, equipment and other goodies as you go. The multiplayer also extends the life of the game no end, always ensuring there is a fight for you to join in.
On the presentation front I have to say I was more than impressed with how the game looks on the phone. It is not quite on par with a console game, but for something running on the phone it is truly impressive, even going so far as to have movie cutscenes in places. The graphics can look a little rough in places. But in general, for a game this impressive running on the iPhone, any small discrepancies can surely be forgiven due to the fact that it mostly looks pretty amazing. The environments are all nicely designed and set the right atmosphere, and the bad guys look suitably bad guy like. The guns, of which there is a wide selection, are surprisingly well detailed. One cool visual feature is that on occasion, when you score an impressive long range kill, the game again goes into slow motion and zooms in from the players view to the guy you hit, so that you see him die close up in a bloody fashion. Gory yes, but still oh so cool. The sound in the game is likewise pretty impressive, with the guns sounds realistic and action movie type music helping set the mood for the fire fights and huge action moments perfectly.
Overall I have to say Modern Combat has more than impressed me. After the plethora of simple yet fun games that I have played on the iPhone, to play a game that is so much more like the kind of video game you find on a more advanced console, is great. Sure, the game does not look as good as them, but for a game on this device it leaves the competition standing. So, if you own an iPhone and you are a fan of first person shooters, especially (yes I am going to say it one more time) Modern Warfare and you want to have that kind of fun when you are on the move, then Modern Combat is a no brainer. Even if you casually play games on your phone, pick this up just to see what can be done when developers put there minds to it.
Modern Combat 2: Black Pegasus, from Gameloft, is available from the App Store for just Â£3.99